The Jolt



My life changed forever when my wife and I had our first child.

Becoming a dad was one of the most incredible and defining moments of my entire life. In fact, I’d say fatherhood is perhaps the most prominent milestone marker of my life. That my life is divided into two parts: before I was a dad and after.

But there’s more to the story.

Before our first son, Noah, was even born I decided to quit my job and try to work from home and write for a living.

It was Christmastime in 2010. My wife and I were having dinner after returning from Colorado. We had just gone through a deeply challenging loss in our family and out of that Anna and I began talking about having kids.

The jolt of the personal tragedy combined with the excitement of starting a family brought my whole life into slow motion. Things that were so important at the time suddenly seemed meaningless. Things that were once side passions now seemed immensely important. So many of my “priorities” got completely uprooted.

I knew that it was time to quit my job of 10 years and try my hand at something new.

Sometimes You Need a Jolt to Help You Make a Choice

It sounds so “bold” — to quit my job on the cusp of starting a family — but it was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. And once I made the choice to quit my job and to start writing my website as my new full-time gig, everything else fell into place.

Do not underestimate the power of decisiveness and action.

Decisiveness brings motivation for action. Action brings clarity. And clarity helps us make future decisions.

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Long-time readers of this site will know just how much I love to geek out over things. I will spend hours and hours researching something to death. I love it. It’s fun; it’s play

For example: A few years ago I bought way too many keyboards and used them, tested them, recorded the sound they make when clicking, and studied how the different key switches actuate.

But sometimes my need to hyper-research and test something can be dangerous. In my office I still use an uncomfortable chair because I’ve never made time to do a deep dive research on “just the right” ergonomic chair for me.

When I want to make a change in my life, or when I want to invest in something that I know will be a critical part of my everyday life, I can obsess over it. Researching, thinking, and talking with people about it. It can literally take me months or years to make a decision (if ever).

My love for learning about and sweating the details is one of my greatest strengths. But it can also be a weakness.

Part of the reason I leave a note out for myself is because if I didn’t then I might never get any writing done. There are times when I need to be told what to do — times when I am paralyzed by decision. But then, once I’ve begun moving, then the action brings with it so much clarity.

Action brings clarity.

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Here’s a story.

A little over a year ago that I finally began running. I’d been putting it off for years because I wanted to do “the best” workout routine possible. What would have the maximum impact in the shortest time with the least effort? Ugh.

One day I realized that if I didn’t just start doing something — anything — then I may never start.

So I did the easiest thing I could do:

  1. I bought a Couch to 5K running app that literally told me what to do. All I had to do was listen and follow the instructions.

  2. I went to a store where they analyze your gait and help you get the right running shoes. They were only a bit more expensive than just going to a factory shoe store, but the extra cost was worth it for me because I didn’t have to think and research shoes. I let someone else help me and it took less than an hour.

And then, I came home and started running.

Starting simple and allowing someone else to tell me what to do removed a huge barrier of activation energy. And now, a year later, I’m still running regularly.

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Sometimes it takes a tragedy or other type of wake-up call to give us the push we need to get moving. Other times, we need to shut up and let someone else tell us what to do so we can just get started already.

In part, that’s exactly what The Focus Course is. It’s like “Couch to 5K” but for doing your best creative work and getting your life in shape.

Do you need a Couch to 5K app in order to start running? Not really.

Likewise, could you go on your own to get clarity on the principles and action items found within the Focus Course? Most likely. In fact, I have nothing to hide here: I’ve listed out all of the books, articles, podcasts, white papers, and other resources I read as part of my research to create The Focus Course.

What makes The Focus Course so valuable is how approachable it is.

The course starts out simple, easy, and fun. And over 40 days the course builds on itself so that by the end you’ve seen significant progress and change and have actually done something.

Peter Drucker says that “the greatest wisdom not applied to action and behavior is meaningless data.”

Knowledge alone is not enough to create lasting change. Which is why The Focus Course is about more than just head knowledge — it’s an introduction to experiential knowledge.

Without any hyperbole, I mean it when I say that The Focus Course can change your life.

Every single person who went through the pilot of the course and provided feedback said that The Focus Course had a positive impact on them, and that they learned about the things they were wanting to learn about and they saw change in the areas they were hoping.

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However, I’m not just here to try and convince you of the power of the Focus Course.

I’m also using it as an example to encourage you that not every decision or project should be researched to death.

If there is something you’re putting off because you think you need to research it more, consider if it’d be better to just start now with the easiest point of activation. And then, let your experiential knowledge bring clarity about what to do next.

Something I have learned — that is still a struggle for me, honestly — is that sometimes I just need to start. Oftentimes what I call “research” or “prudence” is actually just procrastination.

Procrastination left unchecked will gain momentum. The longer you put something off the easier it becomes to keep putting off.

I’m still learning to listen to my gut and to make a choice about something quickly. And I’m learning not to despise setting small goals, trusting the advice of others, starting simple, and making incremental progress.

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Today’s article is a part of my countdown to The Focus Course, which launches on June 23. If this post hit home for you, then I believe you will love the course.

One of the primary goals of The Focus Course is to lead you along a path that starts as simple and fun and then culminates in something with deep and lasting impact. Check it out:

The Focus Course